A dozen years ago, Democrats faced a dilemma. A long-term care entitlement known as the CLASS Act that they added to what became Obamacare faced serious solvency concerns. But after Scott Brown, R-Mass., won a shock Senate victory for Republicans in a January 2010 special election, ending Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, Democrats didn’t have the votes to alter the CLASS Act or remove it from Obamacare.
What did Democrats do? The Obama administration suppressed the internal documents showing that the CLASS Act wouldn’t work. (I and Republican staff colleagues later obtained these documents, compiling them into a report.)
Democrats also convinced many in the disability industry to support Obamacare, in no small part by arguing that the CLASS Act would benefit them — even though many, if not most, Democratic policymakers realized the program contained too many structural flaws ever to get off the ground. The Obama administration eventually admitted just that — 18 months after the law passed.
It was one of the more cynical stunts I have seen in my time in Washington of exploiting a vulnerable community by selling them false hope. But in some ways, it echoes the tactics President Biden is using in a likely futile attempt to avoid an electoral wipeout on Nov. 8.
Selling People a Lie
In a recent speech that more closely resembled a harangue, Biden attacked “mega-MAGA trickle-down” economics. He inveighed against Republican lawmakers who he claimed will “threaten the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time in our history, putting the United States in default unless — unless we yield to their demand to cut Social Security and Medicare.” He followed up by proudly proclaiming, “I will not cut Social Security. I will not cut Medicare, no matter how hard they work at it.”
By claiming he will never reduce Medicare or Social Security spending, Biden is trying to sell the American people a lie — the lie that either program can last without significant changes. Medicare is already functionally insolvent and faces a cash crunch that will see the program officially unable to pay its bills within six years. That could happen even sooner if an impending recession lowers the amount of payroll taxes going into the program’s trust fund. Social Security faces similar solvency issues soon afterward.
If you need any additional convincing that our entitlement programs need fixing, consider this quote: “If you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up. I mean, it’s not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing.”
That quote comes from, of all people, Barack Obama, in a 2011 press conference. Yet what have his vice president and the rest of his party done to fix the problem? Not just nothing — worse than nothing.
Destroying Medicare, in Three Simple Steps
Thus far, Democrats’ “plan” for Medicare has consisted of the following:
- Raiding Medicare to the tune of $716 billion in Obamacare. Democratic lawmakers claimed the law’s Medicare “savings” could both improve Medicare’s solvency and fund Obamacare. But sheer common sense dictates one can only spend the same money once. Unfortunately, though, making Medicare appear more solvent on paper (but not in reality) allowed presidents and Congress to ignore the program’s problems for the past 12 years.
- Raiding Medicare again, to fund more leftist priorities. This summer, the Inflation (Reduction) Act took well more than $130 billion, and by one measure more than $250 billion, in Medicare funds for more Obamacare subsidies for the wealthy, subsidies for Teslas, and other climate pork.
- Attacking any Republicans who have the courage to propose structural changes to make Medicare and Social Security solvent for the long term.
To those three steps supported by practically all Democrats, Biden added a fourth:
- Cheat on his Medicare taxes, using a loophole the Biden administration now wants to eliminate. Tax experts estimate Biden underpaid his Medicare taxes by hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the Internal Revenue Service refused my efforts to insist on an audit of Biden’s returns — this even as Democrats funded 87,000 IRS agents who will harass other Americans, just not Biden.
Recall that even as Biden was cheating on his Medicare taxes, he spent tens of thousands of dollars per month renting this mansion outside Washington:
Pictures like this demonstrate that Biden loves “mega-MAGA trickle-down” economics when he benefits from it.
Ordinary Citizens Will Get Hurt
While Biden and his Democratic cronies line their own pockets, ordinary voters will get hit the hardest by Democrats’ debt denial. By failing to address the problem in a timely fashion, lawmakers will have to make more radical changes to entitlement programs should they wait to act until a fiscal crisis emerges. As Obama himself said in his 2011 press conference:
If you’re a progressive who cares about the integrity of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and believes that it is part of what makes our country great that we look after our seniors and we look after the most vulnerable, then we have an obligation to make sure that we make those changes that are required to make it sustainable over the long term.
The cynical stunt of Biden and the Democrats in going back to the “Mediscare” well likely won’t save them from an electoral reckoning on Nov. 8. Worse yet, it means American families will face an even tougher reckoning when the fiscal crisis finally hits.